Tuesday, January 17, 2012

373: Consciousness defined

"As recently as about the 70s there was little interest among neuroscientists, philosophers, psychologists and cognitive scientists generally in the problem of consciousness.

Reasons for the resistance to the problem varied from discipline to discipline. Philosophers had turned to the analysis of language,

psychologists had become convinced that a scientific psychology must be a science of behavior, and cognitive scientists took their research program to be the discovery of the computer programs in the brain that, they thought, would explain cognition.

It seemed especially puzzling that neuroscientists should be reluctant to deal with the problem of consciousness, because one of the chief functions of the brain is to cause

and sustain conscious states. Studying the brain without studying consciousness would be like studying the stomach without studying digestion, or studying genetics without studying the inheritance of traits", according to John Searle.

Brian cells or the discovery of new neurotransmitter were good subjects for neuroscientific investigation, but consciousness seemed to be too elusive.

This picture has changed dramatically and we can ask now the question, what exactly is the neurobiological problem of consciousness?

The problem, in its crudest terms, is this: How exactly do brain processes cause conscious states and how exactly are those states realized in brain structures?

If we regard consciousness as a biological phenomenon, this sounds similar to other biological problems, for instance, concerning micro-organisms: How, exactly, do they cause disease symptoms and how are those symptoms manifested in patient?

A closely related question is, what exactly are the neurobiological correlates of conscious states, and which of those correlates are actually causally responsible for the production of consciousness?

With respect to the correlation between neurobiological states and conscious states does the picture behind me show what enormous progress has been made in neuroscience.

The neurologist Steven Laureys, head of the Coma Science Group of the University of Luik in Belgium has succeeded to localize the brain areas which correlate with the state of consciousness of a person.

Of course, there are a number of definitions of consciousness. Some authors use the word only to refer to states of self consciousness, which means the consciousness that humans and some primates have of themselves as agents.

Some use it to refer to the second-order mental states about other mental states; so according to this definition, a pain would not be a conscious state, but worrying about a pain would be a conscious state.

John Searle defines consciousness thus: Consciousness consists of inner, qualitative, subjective states and processes of sentience or awareness.

Consciousness, so defined, begins when we wake in the morning from a dreamless sleep - and continues until we fall asleep again, die, go into a coma or otherwise become "unconscious."

It includes all of the enormous variety of the awareness that we think of as characteristic of our waking life. It includes everything from feeling a pain, to perceiving objects visually,

to states of anxiety and depression, to working out cross word puzzles, playing chess, trying to remember your aunt's phone number, arguing about politics, or to just wishing you were somewhere else.

Dreams on this definition are a form of consciousness, though of course they are in many respects quite different from waking consciousness.

However, Consciousness has three aspects that make it different from other biological phenomena, and indeed different from other phenomena in the natural world.

These three aspects are qualitativeness, subjectivity, and unity. I'll discuss them in the next lecture.

The Discussion

[13:19] herman Bergson: Thank you.....
[13:19] Lizzy Pleides: fantastic Herman!
[13:19] herman Bergson: If you have any questions or remarks...
[13:19] Sousinne Ceriano: Thank you =)
[13:19] herman Bergson: the floor is yours ㋡
[13:20] herman Bergson: Well I ant to add one thought to this....
[13:20] herman Bergson: I just got is a moment ago...
[13:21] herman Bergson: the brain causes consciousness…and the brain is a material thing....
[13:21] Sousinne Ceriano: Well... the triangle in the image behind you is the area where visual, tactile and aural information meet... the place where we hold our model of our surroundings.
[13:21] herman Bergson: Now consider this.....
[13:21] herman Bergson: h2o molecules can be in a frozen state.....
[13:22] herman Bergson: certain conditions and we know it is tempreture...pretty simple cause liquidity of the h2o molecules...
[13:22] herman Bergson: so ...
[13:23] herman Bergson: the fundamental object of neuroscientific resueach could be to discover the conditions which generate consciousness...
[13:23] herman Bergson: generated by the matter of our brain...
[13:23] herman Bergson: immense complex issue , but theoretically?
[13:23] Sousinne Ceriano: Absolutely
[13:23] herman Bergson: well..this as addendum ^_^
[13:24] herman Bergson: Now it is your turn ㋡
[13:24] Sousinne Ceriano: But I would say that the area pointed out is not solely responsible for generating consciousness.
[13:24] Sybyle Perdide: but?
[13:24] Sousinne Ceriano: It is our model of our surroundings. Anytime we are active physically, we use it
[13:24] herman Bergson: that is true Soussinne
[13:25] Sousinne Ceriano: Which explains the different situations on the map
[13:25] herman Bergson: But this is what the fMRI scanner shows as brain activity in conscious or unconscious persons
[13:25] Sousinne Ceriano: But when we are doing abstract thought, it likely happens elsewhere
[13:25] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I cannot see why philosophers need to be interested in exactly where in the brain things take place
[13:26] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Only brain surgeons need to consider it
[13:26] herman Bergson: They aren't Merlin....I am ㋡
[13:26] Sousinne Ceriano: We know, for example, that the parts of sensory input that we are directly aware of are those in the thalamus
[13:26] Lizzy Pleides: we have overlappings in several disciplines
[13:26] herman Bergson: Reason for this is that I started with a materialist idea of the mind
[13:27] Sousinne Ceriano: Materialism roxx0rs =)
[13:27] Mistyowl Warrhol: lol
[13:27] herman Bergson: yes Lizzy that is another aspect…
[13:28] herman Bergson: You cant be just a philosopher or psychologist or neuroscientist as such...
[13:28] herman Bergson: all fields overlap...are related
[13:28] herman Bergson: And Merlin....
[13:28] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): yes
[13:29] herman Bergson: another answer to your question.....kind of funny...
[13:29] Mistyowl Warrhol: If one attempts to separate them too much, then one is seeing a part of the whole.
[13:29] herman Bergson: Descartes WAS interested in WHERE body and mind were related..
[13:29] Sybyle Perdide: so consciousness depends, partially on overlapping sytsems?
[13:29] herman Bergson: He even dissected human brains to find the spot
[13:29] Jaelle Faerye: i wonder something
[13:30] Sousinne Ceriano: Consciousness happens in self-referring systems.
[13:30] herman Bergson: That is a neurobiological issue Sybyle.....
[13:30] Sousinne Ceriano: Frege and Russell were systematically avoiding precisely that which would have made their theories amazing.
[13:31] herman Bergson: What is philosophically important here is that consciousness is caused by the brain as a biological process...
[13:31] herman Bergson: in the previous lecture I discussed the ontological status of consciousness
[13:31] herman Bergson: just like you can question the ontological status of liquidity…
[13:31] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I need a dictionary :)
[13:32] Sybyle Perdide: thats normal Merlin
[13:32] herman Bergson: it is a feature of matter....
[13:32] Lizzy Pleides: if we can explain everything with physics and chemistry we dont need philosophy anymore ...
[13:32] Sousinne Ceriano: Sure we do.
[13:32] Jaelle Faerye: sorry to play "mouche du coche" here
[13:32] Jaelle Faerye: but
[13:32] Jaelle Faerye: what tells us if "higher activity" in a small brain area is more efficient in producing consciousness than not so high activity in larger areas of the brain?
[13:32] Sousinne Ceriano: We are getting to the why border here... smething natural science never was able to ross.
[13:32] herman Bergson: THAT is a huge statement Lizzy.....
[13:32] Sousinne Ceriano: cross
[13:33] herman Bergson: Just think of the implications of your statement...!!!!
[13:33] herman Bergson: If everything is only pure physics....
[13:33] herman Bergson: there are the laws of nature....
[13:33] herman Bergson: we can predict the outcome of any chemical process....
[13:33] Sousinne Ceriano: Jaelle, I am with you. I believe the different qualities of consciousness depend on other parts of the brain, with the sum total at 100%
[13:34] herman Bergson: This means if Lizzy is right all is determined in this universe....
[13:34] Sybyle Perdide: but thats no solution
[13:34] Lizzy Pleides: yes!
[13:34] herman Bergson: That is the origin of the discussion on FREE WILL, Lizzy
[13:35] Sybyle Perdide: of course consciousness must come from somewhere in our brains/into our brains
[13:35] Sousinne Ceriano: So what if it is? As long as we can't practically know, it will not affect our decision making
[13:35] Sybyle Perdide: but that doesn't say how it works
[13:35] herman Bergson: Your statement implies that free will does not exists
[13:36] herman Bergson: Makes me think of a lecture of John Searle on free will....
[13:36] herman Bergson: Quantum mechanics has shown that matter isnt deterministic in its processes at all at the lowest level
[13:37] herman Bergson: and he pointed at that fact to say that there is room for free will as there is room for randomness in the behavior of matter
[13:38] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:38] Jaelle Faerye: Randomness in the behavior? That's a random thought!
[13:38] herman Bergson: AmI too hard on you all?
[13:38] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): what do you mean by free will?
[13:38] Farv Hallison smiles
[13:38] Jaelle Faerye: free will is deciding to stay
[13:38] Jaelle Faerye: or to go
[13:39] Sybyle Perdide: the problem of free is its definition
[13:39] Sousinne Ceriano: With randomness at that level, we can develop and learn to make decisions depending on the situation.
[13:39] Jaelle Faerye: for instance
[13:39] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): no..i think it';s more than that
[13:39] Mistyowl Warrhol: No, just my brain is consciously using it's free wwill to feel the pain of working this hard.
[13:39] herman Bergson: Free will means that based on your self awareness you make a decision which could not have been predicted based on your biochemical processes in your brain in advance
[13:40] Jaelle Faerye: yep
[13:40] Farv Hallison: In QM we can go to two different places at the same tikme
[13:40] herman Bergson: the decision is there just at the moment you make it
[13:40] Sybyle Perdide: but is this free?
[13:41] herman Bergson: Let's stick to philosophy here, Farv... ㋡
[13:41] Sybyle Perdide: may be its a mechanism of our brain to react more quickly
[13:41] herman Bergson: Yes Sybyle....that observation is one of the big discussions at the moment
[13:42] Sybyle Perdide: it remembers me, what is my program in difficult situations
[13:42] herman Bergson: Observations that certain brain areas already have made the decision before you are consciously aware of it that you made th edecision
[13:43] Mistyowl Warrhol: I may be way off base here, but when we attempt to look at one theory of consciousness without looking at the whole self, are we not seeing just part of the picture?
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well..I think I have tortured you enough for today ^_^
[13:43] Farv Hallison: Who made the decision if you are not aware of it?
[13:43] herman Bergson: The brain Farv....!
[13:43] Qwark Allen: °͜° l ☺ ☻ ☺ l °͜°
[13:43] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:44] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): and who leads the brain?
[13:44] herman Bergson: That is the whole point in the debate on free will
[13:44] Sousinne Ceriano: we do... that does not mean we know all that it does
[13:44] Sybyle Perdide: so freedom is only a freedom, my brain gives to me?
[13:44] Mistyowl Warrhol: Your unconscious self makes decisions for your conscious self.
[13:44] herman Bergson: the bio chemical process Beertje in interaction with its environment
[13:45] herman Bergson: That is too much psychology Misty....
[13:45] Sousinne Ceriano: bye all.
[13:45] Jaelle Faerye: Bye Sousinne
[13:45] Lizzy Pleides: tc sousinne
[13:45] Sybyle Perdide: bye Sou
[13:45] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): bye
[13:45] Mistyowl Warrhol: Bye Sousinne
[13:45] herman Bergson: Time to finish our discussion.....
[13:46] herman Bergson: May I thank you all for enduring me this time again :-)
[13:46] Qwark Allen: ::::::::: * E * X * C * E * L * L * E * N * T * ::::::::::
[13:46] Qwark Allen: ¸¸.☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** =O= **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`☆ H E R MA N ☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** =O= **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`
[13:46] Jaelle Faerye: well thank YOU
[13:46] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): thank you professor
[13:46] Sybyle Perdide: that was again a very interesting session, Herman
[13:46] Jaelle Faerye: it was a pleasure to endure this
[13:46] Sybyle Perdide: thank you
[13:46] Mistyowl Warrhol: Need time to digest this
[13:46] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): yes ,thank You!
[13:46] herman Bergson: Thank you all for participating
[13:46] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you!!!
[13:47] Sybyle Perdide: sure Qwark
[13:47] Ageliki Mekanic: thank you
[13:47] Sybyle Perdide: : )
[[13:47] herman Bergson: Yes Qwark..I'll make it a subject of a lecture..
[13:47] Qwark Allen: nice
[13:47] Sybyle Perdide: wow
[13:47] herman Bergson: Lizzy started it !!!!!
[13:47] Qwark Allen: very interesting subject for lecture
[13:47] Lizzy Pleides: blushes*
[13:47] Jaelle Faerye looks at Lizzy
[13:47] Qwark Allen: kind related with this one
[13:47] herman Bergson: So we have to answer to it
[13:48] herman Bergson: yes indeed Qwark
[13:48] Qwark Allen: very complex this classes
[13:48] Qwark Allen: but i think we are getting there
[13:48] Qwark Allen: see you next tuesday
[13:48] Qwark Allen: :-)))
[13:48] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): it takes a long way
[13:48] Qwark Allen: thank you
[13:49] herman Bergson: Indeed Qwark....I realize it was...
[13:49] Mistyowl Warrhol: Well, give the brain a work out for sure LOL
[13:49] herman Bergson: it does Misty...
[13:50] herman Bergson: Class dismissed... ㋡

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